When you’re preparing to bring a newborn home, having a nursery at-the-ready is de rigeur. But one thing you may forget is that your home will run 24/7. And that means a spike in energy bills – as much as 20 percent or more.
One of my clients lives in inner-city Denver in a house built in 2005, meant to look like the neighboring Victorian bungalows all around it.
The house has 1,538 square feet above-grade and a full, finished basement. Gas furnace and electric air-conditioner (10 years old). Three refrigerators because they love fine wine and craft beer. Plus 39 lights – most of which had high-wattage incandescent light bulbs. Hubby is also a photographer so lots of gear plugged in for charging.
Mr. and Mrs. Bungalow brought their new baby home in October 2014. In summer 2015, they had to replace their heating and cooling systems altogether, and they opted for high-efficiency models (95% efficient furnace and a super-duper 16-SEER air-conditioner). They also had a significant amount of air-sealing and insulation work done, especially in the flat and vaulted ceilings of the house.
I was super-excited to see their bills, thinking they’d drop – a lot. Instead, they went up about 20 percent. Because of lights, three fridges and photo gear plugged in, the house uses a lot of electricity, and summer usage triggered “peak” pricing (a slap on the hands from the utility for using more than 500 kilowatt hours).
So I did a bill “disaggregation” – counting light bulbs and wattages, using watt meters on bigger appliances like the TV and beer fridge, and counting all energy users like slices of the entire (utility bill) pie. Since then, Mr. and Mrs. Bungalow started changing out light bulbs, and the bills are starting to drop, drop.
Another client and his wife live in a western Denver suburb, in a 1,624-square-foot ranch house built in 1958. The house had an 80% furnace in an open crawlspace underneath the whole house. None of the ductwork in the crawlspace was insulated, so the entire heating system was in a frigid space (in winter) beneath the floor, working hard to keep the house warm.
ABOVE: Infrared imaging shows heat and cool unintentionally entering my client's home.
Insulating ceiling and walls will help keep the house warmer/cooler AND bills down.
Couple brings baby home in December, and BAM! Bills go up a LOT. Over $150 in two months. Keep in mind the relatively small square footage the house has. While some of the jump was seasonal, a big piece of it came from taking care of baby at all hours.
There are several solutions here to ease the financial strain of running a home with a new baby.
KNOW IN ADVANCE THIS HAPPENS – Most homes aren’t ready for a newborn. Knowing that the house will run 24/7 gives you a head start.
MAKE PRETTY, COMFY & LOW-COST – When you’re getting a nursery ready (low-VOC paints, please!), plan for energy use. Put low-wattage, LED light bulbs in everywhere you can. Insulate rooms and areas where the babe will sleep, and where Mom and Dad will hang – like kitchens and sitting rooms. If you can’t handle a major energy overhaul, at minimum change out light bulbs in the kitchen and nursery. It will help.
GET AN ENERGY AUDIT – Energy auditors know how to get energy bills DOWN. Reach out to us or someone in your area to prepare your home so when you bring your new addition home, you’ve already addressed the things you can’t see (behind walls, ceilings, appliances and lights, etc.)
Invisible features behind walls and ceilings become visible when you get utility bills. Your bills will be lower and the house a LOT more comfy if you wrap this up in your baby make-ready.
Reach out anytime with questions or for help.
Mom & baby photo from CNN.com. Other images from GreenSpot Energy & Sustainability.